Abuse, neglect reports fell when pandemic hit, begin to climb again
An analysis of state and county data shows that while child abuse and neglect reports fell sharply after schools closed in the spring due to the pandemic, such reports have begun to climb — close to pre-pandemic levels in several counties.
The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Ohio’s Children Services System also looks at the drop in the number of children entering foster care even as those who had already been in care began to linger, resulting in an overall increase in children in care.
According to the report, “As face-to-face visitation between parents and their children in custody moved online to avoid transmission of the virus, the lack of contact with their children has been heartbreaking for parents, and it has slowed reunification. Even now with visitation resuming, parents are not allowed to hug their children so that the virus is not unwittingly carried into the foster home. Case services required of parents before they can be reunified with their children may have closed or slowed, all of which is delaying permanency for children.”
The report also describes the impact on foster caregivers and the children services workforce. “With no end in sight to the pandemic, Ohio must ensure that children services agencies can continue to meet mandates to protect children, strengthen families and ensure permanency for children. This includes preserving flexibilities provided by ODJFS, supporting the workforce, and maintaining investments throughout the biennium. . . . Ohio needs continued leadership, investment, and innovation as we transform the system to achieve better outcomes for children and families.”